DeSantis entry will make governor's race more competitive, expert says

By John Breslin | Jan 24, 2018

Congressman Ron DeSantis will make the race for governor more competitive and ideologically driven, according to one political analyst.

TALLAHASSEE — Congressman Ron DeSantis will make the race for governor more competitive and ideologically driven, according to one political analyst.

DeSantis (R-FL), who has received the vocal endorsement of President Donald Trump, officially announced this month he is joining the race.

Professor Susan MacManus of the University of South Florida said she thinks DeSantis's involvement will make the race more competitive and ideologically driven, as he has staked out a very conservative stance.

"He is much more conservative than Adam Putnam," MacManus told the Florida Record. "His entry and the support that he has got from very conservative figures, staked out a very, very conservative position."

Republican U.S. House Rep. Ron DeSantis from Florida's 6th District  

His main rival is Putnam, former congressman and current commissioner of agriculture. Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Land O'Lakes) has indicated he could announce his candidacy but the involvement of DeSantis has caught him off guard, MacManus said.

It is a question of how far right Corcoran can now go, she said.

MacManus said DeSantis will make the race more expensive, but she does not think that money will be the deciding factor.

"Money is less important than the people in this race, less significant than the verbal accolades, including from President Trump," she said.

On the general election, MacManus said Florida is one of the most competitive states and that the last four gubernatorial elections were decided by just 1 percentage point. It will be a nail-biter, she added. The added number of Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria could be factor, she said.

William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute, said he is supporting Putnam for governor.

“Adam Putnam has a long proven track record of leadership in this state," Large told the Florida Record. "In addition, he has been a strong supporter of civil justice reforms and the appointment of judicial conservatives to the bench. Adam Putnam is the individual best suited to lead the state of Florida in the future.”

In announcing his candidacy, DeSantis said in a press release the excitement and momentum are behind him. He touted the support of Trump as well as talk show hosts Sean Hannity and Mark Levin and described himself as the state's No. 1 conservative.

“As a military officer, an Iraq veteran, and a proven conservative, with the support of the president, I’m in a position to exercise the leadership that can build on the great work that Governor Rick Scott has done to advance economic opportunity, reform education, and drain the swamp in Tallahassee that needs to be drained just like Washington,” DeSantis said in the release.

While his opponent, Putnam, has over $15 million in cash, DeSantis is expected to raise considerable sums, particularly from out of state. 

The Florida Chamber of Commerce, which organized the most recent poll on the race, has not yet endorsed a candidate for governor.

"It’s very early in the race for the next gubernatorial election, and we have not endorsed in the race (or primaries)," Edie Ousley, the chamber's vice president of public affairs, told the Florida Record

She said the membership will likely decide later this year.

In a statewide poll published earlier this month, 23 percent of Republican voters said they supported Putnam, 18 percent backed DeSantis, while half were undecided.

On the Democratic side, Gwen Graham leads with 14 percent, Philip Levine was at 7 percent, Andrew Gillum at 6 percent and Chris King at 1 percent. But 67 percent of likely voters reported being undecided.

The survey found that 56 percent of likely voters believe Florida is headed in the right direction. Although the majority of voters approve of Florida’s direction, the views differ based on party, the chamber said.

Republicans are especially optimistic at 76 percent, while only 34 percent Democrats believe Florida is headed in the right direction, the chamber found.

Fifty-seven percent of all registered voters approve of Scott’s job performance. Republicans overwhelmingly approve of his performance by 82 percent, while 30 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of nonparty-affiliated voters approve.

The statewide poll was carried out by the Florida Chamber Political Institute (FCPI). It was conducted between Jan. 2 and Jan. 5. The sample size included 235 Democrats, 259 Republicans and 106 others for a total of 600 respondents statewide.

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